Despite commendable progress on legal and policy safeguards for older persons, a UN-appointed independent human rights expert said on Friday that Nigeria must implement already adopted measures to protect them against ageism and age discrimination, both of which are still prevalent.

Ending a 12-day visit to the country, Claudia Mahler, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights for older persons, said that as well as ageism and age-discrimination, even among Government officials, violence against older persons is an unspoken reality.

Pressing laws

She welcomed the Government’s progressive efforts in combatting poverty, security concerns, economic crisis, and gender-based inequalities faced by many older people, which she upheld “translates into the adoption of the National Senior Citizens Centre Act and the establishment of a dedicated Centre at Federal Government level to ensure that the human rights of older persons are mainstreamed in all programmes and activities”.

Meanwhile, a pending bill called ‘Older Persons (Rights and Privileges)’ would offer the most comprehensive legal framework ever available for older persons in the country, addressing among others, the social and economic challenges triggered by ageing.

“I urge President [Muhammadu] Buhari to assent to the law, as part of his extended legacy to promote the rights of older persons,” she said.

Lacking protection

The absence of social protection floors, including a regular distribution of pensions, contribute to the difficulty that older persons face in accessing social services, including appropriate healthcare, various care options, and adequate housing.

Older people in vulnerable situations – especially those with disabilities, internally displaced, living below the poverty line and LGTB persons – should be prioritized by the Government when implementing legal and policy tools.

“Continued efforts, along with political will and appropriate budgeting, must be strengthened to ensure that legal and policy safeguards protect the rights of all older persons all over the Nigerian territory in practice, indistinctive of their sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, and their living and economic situations,” the expert underscored.

Upcoming report

During her visit, Ms. Mahler met with various government authorities at federal and state levels, civil society, stakeholders working on the rights of older persons and the elderly themselves.

She will present a comprehensive report of her findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2023.

“I hope my report and recommendations will assist the country to reduce inequalities and ensure a life in dignity for all older persons in the country,” concluded the independent expert.

Independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.

Claudia Mahler, UN Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons, on her recent visit in Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria.

OHCHR/Claudia Mahler

Claudia Mahler, UN Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons, on her recent visit in Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria.

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